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Light In This Darken'd Time Breaks

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Dorian needed to hit something.

He’d woken up in foul mood that morning and skipped breakfast in favor of heading to the library. Finding an area of the Inquisition’s library that was particularly lacking, and then complaining about it until items were put on a requisition list could probably distract him for a short while.

But then there Trevelyan was, holding out a folded piece of parchment to him. Dorian recognized his family’s seal immediately.

“Your father sent a letter,” the Inquisitor told him. Dorian snatched it out of his hand.

“And you opened it,” Dorian said, noting the broken wax seal. “Charming.”

Trevelyan ducked his head. “Well, Mother Giselle did, actually. It was sent to her. She didn’t think I should show it to you.”

That was… unsettling. Dorian’s eyes scanned the letter quickly taking in the words. His father wanted to meet. More accurately, wanted someone to trick Dorian into meeting with a retainer of Halward’s. And partially due to curiosity, partially due to masochism, Dorian decided he would meet with the retainer.

“I’ll arrange our travel with my advisors,” the Inquistor told him.

“If you could do me the favor of being as discreet as is allowable, you would have my appreciation,” Dorian sighed.

Trevelyan nodded his understanding and then left Dorian to his thoughts.

I know my son.

Dorian scoffed as he recalled the words of the letter. What Halward Pavus knew of him wouldn’t even fill a thimble. Yes, Dorian needed to hit something

--

It didn’t take long for Dorian to find himself at the sparring ring. The day was warmer than usual, the sun hanging bright and warm in the sky. That meant plenty of people were milling about, giving Dorian many options for challenges, and many opportunities to be fawned over.

“I could do this all day,” Dorian said with a laugh, catching the swing of a practice sword against the length of his staff.

Dorian had command of the ring. He translated his bad mood, his anger at his father, into a persistence that, coupled with his elegant if not a little showy combat style, was captivating to the people watching. The novelty of fighting the mage had returned.

He commanded the attention of Cullen as well. The Commander had been crossing through the yard, hoping to find Cassandra, when he’d spotted Dorian sparring ring. He stopped to watch from the fringe of the crowd, arms crossed in front of him.

Dorian moved with dexterity and poise that Cullen didn’t see in his soldiers. This was good practice for them. He was struck by the fact that Dorian could have so easily retaliated any of the times Cullen had been aggressive towards him, but until the other night, the mage hadn’t shown any hostility toward him.

The longer Dorian stayed in the ring, the more he began to sweat. As it was truly unbecoming of someone of his magnificence, Dorian began to shed items of clothing until he was bare from the hip up.

Of course, Cullen thought. Dorian’s leather trousers, slung low on his hips, seemed just as annoyingly strappy and inconvenient as the rest of what he wore. His eyes were drawn to Dorian’s left hip. Cullen swore he saw what looked like ink just above the mage’s waistband, but tattoo wasn’t a common practice in Tevinter.

Dorian was breathing hard, leaning on his staff for support. The sun illuminated the trickles of sweat trailing down Dorian’s tanned, toned chest and arms.

He was trading quips with Iron Bull, trying to goad him into challenging Dorian. The smirk on Bull’s face, the roll of his eyes, only indicated that the mage was getting close to provoking the Qunari enough. The mage seemed to have a death wish, but devilish smile on his face, Dorian wouldn’t back down.

“That staff’s in pretty good shape,” Iron Bull deflected. “Do you polish it often?” he asked, waggling his brow. Dorian groaned.

An unfamiliar face approached, leaning forward on the barrier of the ring. The man had dusky skin, long, dark hair pulled back into a loose knot at the nape of his neck, and eyes that flashed with an eagerness to get into the ring. Dorian suspected he was some sort of visiting dignitary that Josephine had advised them about, but no name came to mind.

A few words were exchanged, and then the man was pushing himself over the barrier and into the ring. Dorian wasn’t sure if he was allowed to spar with, likely, the son of some minor lord, but no one had stopped him. Yet.

“You think you’re so impressive, hm?” the man said. He prowled around the ring, testing the weight of the practice sword he was given in his hand.

Dorian smirked, trying to place the man’s accent, and gestured widely around him. “I don’t think I’m the only one who knows I’m impressive.”

Antivan. It was definitely an Antivan accent, Dorian decided. No wonder he was so eager to duel, it was in the man’s blood.

The other moved to strike first. He didn’t outright hack and slash like many of new recruits did. He had experience. Dorian grinned.

Their bout ended when Dorian expertly dodged one of the lunges from the man. The miss left the man way too close to Dorian to attempt any sort of parry. Dorian hooked the end of his staff behind one of the man’s ankles and pulled, sweeping his leg, exploiting his wide stance. The motion threw the man off balance and Dorian saw his opportunity.

The man just barely had time to block a hark knock from Dorian and the force of it sent him sprawling to his seat.

Dorian extended a hand to help him up but the man swatted it away, climbing to his feet on his own and brushing off his trousers. He held his head high as if he hadn’t just been properly humbled.

“You certainly are… Something, mage,” the man said. His eyes scanned Dorian up and down, causing the mage to smirk.

“Something,” Dorian began, “Including impressive, Ser,” he drawled. The man scowled, having his words turned on him in that way.

Deciding to end on a high note, Doran stepped from the ring, leaving it to a pair of recruits who wanted to fight out and ongoing spat they were in. He gathered up the pieces of his discarded clothes, almost tempted to use the robes to wipe the sweat from his brow, but deciding he wouldn’t dare do that to such an exquisite fabric.

--

“And those eyes,” Josephine giggled to Leliana, “What color are they anyway? Hazel? It’s a shame he’s… You know.”

Dorian’s earlier display in the sparring ring hadn’t gone unnoticed, including by the women of Skyhold. Even Josephine and Leliana were reduced to gossip as they, along with Cullen, waited for Trevelyan to meet them in the war room.

The Inquisitor had sent out a missive to the three of them earlier, asking them to meet that afternoon. The trio was curious, as Trevelyan usually wasn’t the one to call a meeting first. Usually it was one of the advisors, having received some vital new report.

“Grey,” Cullen said, not looking up from the report in his hands. Silence. “His eyes? They’re grey.”

The Commander was met with stares. Leiliana’s eyebrows slowly crept up and Josephine covered her mouth to stifle another giggle.

“Is that so, Commander?” Leliana teased.

Cullen scowled and turned back to his report. Josephine and Leliana lowered their voices, but returned to their idle gossip.

“And does he…?” Josephine whispered, placing a hand over her right hip. The tattoo. Josephine had said it as if it was the most scandalous aspect about Dorian. Humans in general didn’t often tattoo their bodies, and Tevinter wasn’t on the list of regions in which the practice happened with more frequency.

Cullen thanked the Maker that Trevelyan walked in before the Commander could foolishly point out that the inked image was on the left side, not the right.

“Dorian and I need to go to Redcliffe on a… personal matter,” Trevelyan explained to them. “We’ll be heading to the Gull and Lantern tomorrow afternoon. I estimate we’ll need four days.”

It wasn’t a proposal, it was matter of fact. They’d arrive in Redcliffe on the second day to speak to the retainer. A raven had already been sent. They’d stay overnight in the rooms above the tavern and then promptly leave the next morning.

“Taking a vacation in the middle of saving the world?” Josephine teased.

Trevelyan smiled uncomfortably. “It’s… It’s not for me. But Dorian is requesting privacy on the matter.”

It didn’t appear that the Inquisitor would be offering any more information about the reason for the trip. Trevelyan also was insisting they didn’t need a whole party, that they wouldn’t stray from main roads so the patrols would be enough to protect them.

A knot started twisting in Cullen’s stomach. He didn’t like the idea of the two traveling alone. But a whisper from a darker part of him revealed what else was bothering him.

You don’t like the idea of them spending time alone together.

Cullen had to keep reminding himself that the pair weren’t going on a lover’s getaway. Whatever they were up to seemed serious. Perhaps Dorian would tell him more over a chess game once they returned. Cullen could hope.